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The best HEAT game I've attended

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As part of SB Nation's theme day, we're all listing the best game we ever attended in person as a fan. Here's my answer. Feel free to share yours.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

I've been eternally grateful for being able to attend so many HEAT games over the past 2 seasons. I'm sure many will answer this question with a memorable game from the "Big 3" era of Miami HEAT basketball. There is no argument that those four years were the most significant, scrutinized, and and euphoria-inducing of the franchise's history. But even though I've sat at 100 level and marveled at LeBron up close (it's ok to still say good things sometimes guys), even though I saw Ray Allen hit a game winner over the outstretched arms of a flabbergasted Corey Brewer, I have to avoid picking a game from this era and I'll explain why in due time.

The HEAT, like most franchises, had seasons of being a great team and seasons where they were a mediocre one. With that being the case, it was still quite easy to land good seats to a HEAT game in 2006 without having to take out a second mortgage on your home. I hadn't been to a game in a while and begged my dad to buy some tickets. Luckily, there was a game available on a Saturday that was also against an awful team at the time, the Atlanta Hawks.

100 level! We were behind the basket and had a good enough view to gawk at Shaq's Brobdingnagian stature. Unfortunately, Dwyane Wade would miss this game after playing three nights earlier against Boston. Another small tidbit was that the HEAT traded little used Gerald Fitch for veteran shooting guard Derek Anderson and the timing couldn't have been better.

Let me preface by saying the game was actually mostly pretty dreadful. With no Wade, the Heat were deflated and fell behind early and the Hawks, with no Wade to worry about, fouled Shaq into oblivion (11-20 from the free throw line). Trailing by 17 in the 3rd quarter, we started to wonder if we should leave early. It was a rather meaningless regular season game after all. The HEAT, however, finally got into an offensive groove in that quarter, but couldn't stop Joe Johnson that night.

In the 4th quarter however, Miami clamped down defensively and continued their offensive explosion. Shaq was mauling whatever poor sap Atlanta threw at him himself and Derek Anderson, who wasn't expected to play considering he didn't know the playbook or system at the time, caught fire, hitting his last three shots and scoring 12 of his 14 points in the 4th quarter.

With Miami only down by 2, Shaq fouled out and the HEAT turned to Udonis Haslem and Anderson to shoulder the offense and somehow they managed to keep the game tied over those last few minutes.

At 95-95, the last HEAT play was a blur. Haslem would badly airball a jumper designed for him, but Anderson, who had the intuition to crash the boards, had the ball fall right to him. With seconds left, he dished to the massive hands of one Alonzo Mourning, who crushed the ball through the rim. With a 'Zo finger point to the sky and a Jason Williams block (!?!?) stopping a desperation shot by Atlanta, Miami came out victorious.

Now, I guess I should explain why I picked an exciting, but overall insignificant game over the recent years of watching LeBron and friends marvel us with their "Flying Death Machine" offense.

Well, I was 13 going on 14 at the time, and at that age what I remember most about rooting for Miami was my blind optimism for every player on the team. Dorell Wright would develop into an all-star, Udonis Haslem will become the next Dennis Rodman, Wayne Simien would be a franchise cornerstone. For most kids who watch sports, the concept of a ceiling is nonexistent, so there was nowhere to go but up.

Furthermore, that was the 3rd HEAT game I'd ever been to so the experience was still a fresh and unique one and frankly, it's the first game I can mostly remember the details of. Any game that has a game winning shot at home is cause for celebration, but the sheer volume of fans in a building all expressing the same emotion of pure joy is something that needs to be experienced.

Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Box Score, March 4, 2006

(Honorable Mentions: 1234)